SA 2014 Part 3: More Shots from the 3rd Annual Trash to Treasure Festival

Here is Part 3 of my photo journal to South Africa for the 3rd of the Trash to Treasure Festivals several weeks ago, featuring shots from the Eco Brick Competition and Roundhouse that was being built, some local Greyton and Genadendal Talents, and the band Black South Easter:

– Jo Stodgel 4/12/14

The DO School Visits The Hudson Company

Several days ago the DO School fellows and Challenge Lab facilitator Scott Francisco took a short walk from the Made in NYC Media Center to the nearby Hudson Company in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The Company was founded by a man named Jamie Hammel who chose to apply his business education to the arts of fine woodworking and reclamation.

When he began his research on the subject, he discovered a small group of productive woodchucks who were deeply passionate about wood but lacked the business knowledge to work on a larger scale or with more mainstream clients and firms. In response he established his business to offer a platform for these fine woodworkers who were so diligently rescuing and upcycling old timbers from abandoned or condemned buildings such as old barns and tobacco mills.

I was pleasantly delighted and surprised to walk into the showroom, where a variety of woods hang, most of them samples of one of a kind “limited batches”, and some of them hundreds of years old. The company focuses mainly on flooring and interior design applications but shares the showroom with Mark Jupiter, a man and his crew who are making beautiful furniture with the woods that Jamie sources and processes at a mill 90 miles to the North of NYC. I look forward to visiting the mill one day with my brother James who is also a passionate woodworker and currently making furniture in Santa Fe, NM from reclaimed shipping pallets. Some of his past work can be found here.

All the best to Jamie, his crew and their upcoming projects such as the flooring of the new Whitney Museum in NYC.

– Joseph Stodgel 3/14/14

Eco Brick Instructions and T-shirt Designs in the Works

Eco Brick Instructions 2014 sThis is one of the drawings that I have made for the new eco-brick instructions that I am developing for all sorts of applications from business cards and stickers to social media and blogging. Below is the tentative t-shirt design which is available as one of the perks on my ongoing Crowdfunding Campaign to raise money for the Sustainable Cup Challenge DO School Fellowship in NYC. I intend to develop at least a couple more designs and give people the option to pick from a few.

new eco brick instruction shirts 2 bw sIf you would like to learn more about eco-bricks then check out the good work of Pura Vida Atitlan, Hug It Forward, and Ecobricks.org and read further below an excerpt from my Schumacher College MSc dissertation. Here is a bit of writing that I published about a year ago: “Behold, the humble eco-brick – a plastic bottle stuffed with all things non-biodegradable. Whilst the so-called revolutionaries burn tires, break things and produce massive mountains of smoking trash, hard-at-work others stuff the dread and wastage of the industrial machine into little bottles and build places of council and learning with them. This revolution is not fought with burning molotov cocktails poised for destruction, but plastic bottles eating trash in an act of simple implosion that brings together the disintegrated synthetics and threads of an unraveling global supply chain.What do you put forth into the world?”

EcoBrickIt Outlinebw s“A better method of containing the non-biodegradable waste stream is available, and to be found in the simple plastic bottle of which there is no end in sight. They are designed to be containment vessels, so it probably best that we use them as such.[1] This idea brings us to the eco-brick and the work of Pura Vida Atitlan of Guatemala and the other organizations and individuals worldwide who are stuffing their plastic waste streams into bottle bricks, preventing it all from wrecking pollution on their homes and utilizing the otherwise nocicycled† materials as beneficial building components. Certain groups have even gone to the extent of turning the trash of entire landfills into schools they couldn’t otherwise afford.[2]

My first encounter with the act of filling plastic bottles with trash took place many years ago on a backpacking trip in the Sangre De Christo mountain range outside of my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. As we agreed with and were following Leave No Trace principles and practice to the best of our abilities, we were collecting all of our trash produced in a black sack that swelled to a substantial size. Wanting to save on space and do something around the fire, my friend John Armstrong began to stuff the whole lot of the trash into a one-liter sports drink bottle that we had. Instead of walking out with a substantially sized black trash sack full of trash, we walked out with a hardened bottle compressed to the brim.

Plastic Bottle BrickRediscovering this lost art of upcycling and considering it’s potential in building projects came to me just days before I departed to South Africa to conduct my dissertation research. I was excited to say the least at having found a simple solution to the question of what to do with “the rest of the stuff”. I was back in the area of Schumacher College and picked up the most recent copy of Resurgence where I quickly found an article by the environmentalist Nicola Peel whom I met last year at the College. I read of her work helping to clean up villages by spreading the simple wisdom of Pura Vida Atitlan, who have overseen and encouraged the creation of thousands upon thousands of plastic bottle bricks stuffed with all sorts of plastic trash to make walls, garden partitions, schools, and health centres for much cheaper than otherwise and of great benefit in the beautification of surrounding areas. [3] On PVA’s site I was awe-struck and inspired to find shot after shot of upcycled buildings going up and all of the smiling and stoked faces of the local people involved. I recognized quite quickly that this was the direction that I wanted to take the work in South Africa, and was deeply gladdened to have such an example to work from. It is home-made upcycling par excellence.” *

† [“We can use the word nocicycling to refer to any and all forms of waste management which cause harm (the prefix noci- comes from the Latin nocere meaning ‘to harm’). Unfortunately, most all forms of modern and industrial waste management, including most recycling practices, are in one way or another harmful to human beings and other species.”*]


[1]     Plastic bottles are the responsible elder siblings of the plastics family with arms big enough to hug and contain the rest of their unruly siblings.

[2]     HUSK Cambodia, http://www.huskcambodia.org/

[3]     Pura Vida Atitlan, http://puravidaatitlan.org/

* Extracted from pages 10 and 16-17 of Joseph Stodgel’s Schumacher College MSc Dissertation entitled Trash to Treasure: Making Rehabilitation a Celebration and Cultivating the Authentic Wholeness of Upcycling.

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